Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Dear readers,…

... this is the last real post of this blog, and the day after tomorrow at midnight, quite exactly two years after he came into existence, the blogger "Julien Frisch" will cease to exist.

Two years ago, I have started this blog because I wanted to. I just thought it was right and necessary to discuss European politics from the perspective of a convinced European. And so I did.

However, I didn't want to throw myself into the public at that time. I also didn't want to take my private history with me, I wanted to try to develop a new voice, one that went beyond what I had done before. I wanted to talk about what came to my mind, and I wanted that my words were just taken as the words of an individual person; I wanted to write freely without being interpreted in the context of my private or professional life.

So I decided to write the blog under a pseudonym - "Julien Frisch".

I've always liked the name "Julien" because it sounds good in English, French, and German (even in Spanish), and I added "Frisch" mainly because of Max Frisch, the Swiss author - Switzerland being some kind of a small European Union and Max Frisch an author that I liked reading. Important was also that the combination "Julien Frisch" didn't produce any Google results at that time, so I wouldn't take up a spot that was already covered by others.

In the first year - despite the blog receiving some relevant attention in the EU sphere although the actual readership has never been big compared to big national blogs - almost nobody (except for 1-2 friends) in my surroundings knew I was writing a blog. Even up until today there is only a limited amount of people inside and outside Brussels who know my real name and there is still only a limited amount of friends, family members and people I have met outside the web that know my blog because I told them.

I never had the intention to promote myself, and I have no intention to change that with this last post. So you got to know me as Julien Frisch, and you will see me vanish as Julien Frisch.

The main reason why I will stop writing this blog and stop using the pseudonym is that I feel limited in my work as a political scientist and also that I want to get involved in new projects related to EU politics that would bring about conflicts of interest if I continued writing under a pseudonym.

Actually, I've never had a problem using the pseudonym because I've never been directly involved in EU matters or lived in Brussels (until recently) while writing it.

I even started to react very well to that new name after a while. But today it makes me feel restricted in becoming active outside the digital sphere, in particular because I always have to think about whether I need to tell persons my blogging background or not. Because of the latter I also get uncomfortable as a political scientist whenever I ask people to talk with me. 

In addition, blogging on this blog also takes up a lot of time. And since beside my work as political scientist I want to devote some more time for other EU- and non-EU-related projects, there is also the problem that days only have 24 hour and weeks only 7 days.

Hence, I needed to make a choice, and the choice has been made against the blog and against the pseudonym.

Don't get me wrong: This is no spontaneous decision, I've been thinking about that for while already, but I feel that now is the time to leave. I will continue contributing to the development of the euroblogosphere through Bloggingportal.eu, and I will also continue to be around in EU social media communication. But this will not be in the context of this blog and not under the pseudonym that has followed me for the last 24 months.

When I will re-appear, I will be my real me, and even if I will have to start from the scratch, I don't want to take "Julien Frisch" with me. Call it creative destruction or an idiotic digital suicide, but the decision has been taken.

So this blog and this identity will come to an end, the euroblogger "Julien Frisch" will disappear into the digital nirvana from Thursday at midnight and I'll leave this identity behind without much regret because while it has been a great time I still love to move on.

I hope you enjoyed reading and following this blog and my Twitter account, and I hope I could inspire one or the other person to become active and to engage online and offline in EU politics.

It's actually not difficult to become a euroblogger, just take the courage to attack the little stupid things happening around EU decision-making every day, follow 2-3 subjects of interest over time to be able to tell a real story, and interact with others who are involved inside and outside the EU sphere. Share your knowledge and your ideas, spread news and discussions, and you will realise that even when your audience is not massive you reach out to people who care.

Go and fight the hierarchies and the ignorance of the higher ranks, disclose the hidden politics and secret circles that have formed to profit from the complexity of the Union, attack the narrow-minded and the satisfied, show that bureaucratic politics are not without alternatives, unveil that diplomatic language only exist to cover the failure to actually produce solutions, make your voice heard from inside the institutions and shout into the half-open doors of these institutions if you are on the outside.

Write in English or German, Maltese or Polish, but do it, just do it! If we don't do it, the Union might fail due to a lack of open and honest critique.

And don't hesitate, as I did, to use a pseudonym, as long as you stick to it, as long as you don't use it to protect lies or undue attacks. I feel that the pseudonym has given me the freedom to be more objective, to be more direct, to cover issues because I found it important to cover them, not because I wanted to present my person in the best possible way. It allowed me to experiment with my identity, with my style(s), with my thoughts and political positions.

This blog may not have existed if I would have been legally obliged to disclose my real name. And I would not have been the person I am today, doing the things I do the way I do them. This is meant to be a statement against anybody who wants to prevent anonymous or pseudonymous writing.

Yet, it doesn't mean that this is the perfect model, it's just an option that might work well for some people in some situations as it has worked for me over the last two years. I still think that in an ideal society we would all be able to write openly and freely about what we think and about what we want to write in our own name, but society isn't ideal, so sometimes our choices aren't either.

Now these are definitely the last words of the last article of this blog and I could go through a long list of people who deserve thanks and congratulations for so many different reasons, but I will just quit by saying good bye and leaving quietly into the summer sun of Brussels.

See you around in Europe, online or offline!

Sincerely yours,

Julien Frisch

PS.: The comments of this blog will stay open until the day after tomorrow, 11.59 pm, and then I will close them forever. I will also stop writing on my Twitter account at this time. My email address will remain active, so if you need to contact me for whatever reason in the future, feel free to do so.

EU Concours 2010: EPSO in troubles?

If I'm reading Samuel's euroblog post (French) correctly and add this message* issued by EPSO (the European Personnel Selection Office) that concerns the same matter, EPSO could get into deep troubles with it's 2010 concours - if it isn't already.

PS.: The Court of Auditors will love that... (background)

* (via @samuelbhfaure on Twitter)

Monday, 28 June 2010

Where the stories are born

Many have asked me how I get ideas for blog posts, and the truth is that almost everything I've been writing about has come to me via public sources on the web - nothing anybody else couldn't do.

A lot of the stories on this blog - almost all 143 previous posts under the label Council of the European Union - have been born by going through the EU Council RSS feed of Latest Public Documents which can be found in the long list of Council RSS feeds that you may also want to follow if you'd like to get an idea of what the member states are actually (not) doing in different policy areas.

Since the stream usually also includes Commission documents (like Communications) sent to the Council, you also get hold of what the Commission is sending publically to the Council and the Parliament.

I'm still amazed talking to journalists here in Brussels who are not even using this kind of source. With a little extra research, a Council document can easily become a full story, especially when you have good contacts.

But often one fresh original document already tells more than 10 press releases (here's the latest example on this blog)...

PS: If you still don't know what RSS is and why you need that, I recommend reading Jon's post on the matter.

Should bloggers get access badges for the EU institutions?

This question asked by the head of the European Parliament press unit earlier this month is as simple as it is difficult to answer (Stephen and The European Citizen have given their views already).

It is difficult to answer because it is actually a question about why certain people get privileged access to (EU) institutions.

Why does somebody who has a press card easily gets access to the institutions even when she or he doesn't even report about what she or he sees or when he or she reports only tiny bits without much actual research afterwards, or when s/he distorts a story to please a national audience, when s/he only reports about what can be sold for money instead of telling the public what the public should know?

Why can you register as a lobbyist and then have access to institutions like the Parliament without there being a proper definition of what a lobbyist actually is (long discussion, I know)? Why are those who can afford the process of registration better than those who can't afford it?

Why is there no special "scientist access badge" so that people like me who are studying EU politics could work more easily in the Brussels environment?

Why is privileged access to public institutions given only to two categories of people whose professions are in fact hard to distinguish from activities individual citizens or groups of citizens without a clear organisational background are able and willing to do today on their own, namely reporting (=journalism) about and advocating (=lobbying) on questions of special or general interest?

The reason is simple: Old institutions are used to communicate with organisational actors, they hate to deal with real individuals even though in the case of journalistic or interest groups they usually have to deal with a very limited amount of individuals representing these organisations.

Institutions prefer to deal with those who are willing to invest in bureaucracy and structures over those who actually want to do something, because the former are more similar to themselves. Institutions want to deal with institutions, organisations with organisations.

The question whether bloggers should have access to EU institutions is thus actually not the real question, the question is:

Should individuals have access to EU institutions? And if yes, under what conditions?

We have to ask the question like this because there is no clear categorisation of what a blogger is, what a blogger does, how it is done and when, why or with what purpose.

A blogger can be someone like me who writes a blog without the blog being directly related to his/her work, who writes because s/he has fun to write, who follows politics because s/he is interested, because s/he feels s/he can contribute to some discussions as an informed citizen.

Other bloggers may have a more professional interest in writing, using the blog as a medium to publish journalistic texts to earn money with this activity.

A blog can be used as part of the institutional communication, helping the outside world to understand what happens within an organisation beyond stereotype press releases or to influence opinions by being part of an environment of public discussions where you can only prevail if you manage to have your views publicly represented.

A blog can be just a private commentary, involving issues we come across every day, be it culture, society, politics or private issues we want to share and discuss with a smaller or bigger audience, just because we want to and because we can.

Somebody doesn't have to be an EU blogger to write about EU affairs, to the contrary, maybe a national expert in a certain policy field will add a more objective yet more informed view on his or her topic.

A blog can have 100 readers a day who are the ones concerned or the only ones interested or a blog may have 100,00 readers who don't come because they want to be informed but just because it is fun reading the blog.

Bloggers are different kinds of individuals with different kinds of interests and styles and means, and the only thing that is common to them is that they publish on the web in a more or less regular way.

So you won't be able to draw lines to decide on specific criteria to define what kind of bloggers should have access to the EU institutions, but it is still necessary to give individuals with the intent to report about EU politics access to the institutions for a limited time, no matter whether it is for a local school newspaper writer, an international blogger or a scientist who needs to observe certain activities within the institutions for her/his research.

You may need some kind of small-scale body (a "Citizens' Access Unit") in each institution where people can request access for specific purposes, and either this unit will decide on its own or, whenever possible, re-direct the request to other competent people/structures within the institution (e.g. a committee secretariat, a political group, a head of unit in the Commission etc.) to deal with the necessary formalities.

And if this is not possible due to conservative thinking, you have to make at least public what kind of occasions there are already where you can get easy access, e.g. in the case of hearings, seminars or public committee meetings in the European Parliament where any citizen can register and participate quite easily as I have noticed while being here in Brussels.

In the end this is about trusting citizens instead of distrusting them, openness instead of closed up public institutions. And yes there will be one or another case of misuse of this trust, but you also give access to stupid lobbyists or stupid journalists whom you have trusted and who misuse this trust in rare cases.

And beyond this citizen access, the institutions also have to widen the scope of what they call "journalism", allowing permanent access to people who can prove (through previous work, current work, income statistics etc.) that they pursue a journalistic activity.

This kind of professional blogger or independent journalist may be defined by the intention to make a living out of this activity but institutions should end the need to demand that people are registered with some journalistic cartel organisations whose only interest it is to protect newcomers from entering a profession that is undergoing changes, being afraid of loosing to those who are better adapted to today's environment than they are. Journalists should be defined by what they do, not by the fact that they are registered as such with some national or European organisations.

Now this was more some kind public brainstorming than an argued blog post, but my main message is that the institutions need to find a way to allow access to those who are interested in dealing with these institutions, in particular when they do so with the interest of analysing and reporting their work to the outside world, making European politics accessible to new audiences or making European topics public and understandable that have remained in expert circles so far, out of the range of journalists or institutional communication.

The answer how to do that is not easy to give, but EU institutions that are able to decide about budgets of billions of Euros should be able to decide how they will allow individual access to their premises - but it seems it is easier to deal with big money than with human beings for them.

Picture: I took this photo in a European Parliament hearing for which I simply applied with an email sent to the political group secretariat. With the badge I received I was able to walk around freely in the European Parliament. Many of the participants seemed to have permanent badges (EP staff, permanent representations, lobbyists, not much press).

Friday, 25 June 2010

Should Commission staff edit Wikipedia articles?

On the EU Commission social media blog "Waltzing Matilda" Alenka is asking a number of pertinent questions:
"In your opinion, should the European Commission edit EU-related Wikipedia pages? If yes, when and how should we do it? If no, what alternatives would you suggest? I am looking forward to your comments."
So, should EU Commission staff edit Wikipedia articles to correct, for example, factual mistakes?

Thursday, 24 June 2010

EU Council with new website design

It is incredible, but the Council of the European Union has a newly designed website. I got so much used to the old 1998-style of the portal that I cannot believe that they actually did this.

The style is equal to that of the European Council - probably the test ground (or the place where they realised that a new design was actually possible). A first quick look into the content makes me feel that the basic structure and content isn't changed, except probably for the digital press room.

It looks nice, that is for sure.

However, the most important change regarding that would be necessary is that the different Council configurations are filled with life. I want to click on the Agriculture Council and find all meeting documents, news, photos etc. (including the work of the Working Parties) available instead of heaving to search for them with a lot of efforts in the Council document register.

Speaking about the register that is linked under "Documents" in the main menu, I'd recommend that you don't need to click through four links until you actually can search for documents. Why not having a search right after clicking on "Documents"?

But let's not complain, it's already nice to see that the Council has moved into the 21st century, at least in website design. Waiting now for more transparency in its general work...

The EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): EU fails proper coordination in the Council of Europe

It is rare that public EU documents actually give an insight into failures at diplomatic or bureaucratic level, and so the publishing of this Council document regarding the negotiations of the EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is one of the few valuable exceptions.

The document makes clear that while the EU Council in Brussels has been deciding upon a negotiation mandate for the EU Commission regarding the EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (for the background see all posts on this blog under the label "ECHR"), co-ordination outside Brussels seems to be bad.

The EU member states' experts of a major Council of Europe* steering committee (similar to a Working Party in the EU Council), the CDDH, seemed to be so poorly co-ordinated that some of them, if I read the above-mentioned document correctly, voiced positions in a committee meeting that were even against the EU negotiation mandate:
"[I]t should be noted that individual delegates of EU Member States at the CDDH meeting openly questioned in statements in particular the following negotiating directives (to be noted that the Ministers had adopted them 12 days before the meeting of the CDDH):

a) The principle contained in 1 e) – that the Union should be allowed to participate in the ECtHR as well as other Council of Europe bodies to the extent that their activities are linked to the purpose of the ECtHR on an equal footing.

b) Directive 6 that the EU should have its own judge with the same status and duties of the other Contracting Parties.

c) That an appropriate number of members of the EP should be allowed to participate in sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE when the latter exercises functions related to the application of the Convention (especially elections) (directive 7).

d) That the Union should be allowed to participate in meetings of the Committee of Ministers and to vote when the latter exercises its role in relation to the Convention (directive 8).

e) The necessity of having a co-respondent mechanism (directive 10 b).
Funny enough, this document thereby also reveals more details about the negotiation mandate that is kept secret by the EU.

And, when you read the rest of the text, you can also see that the Spanish EU Council presidency who has issued the document doesn't seem to understand the kind of special structure that is supposed to be created within the Council of Europe to sort out the legal questions linked to the EU's accession to the ECHR, which shows that the Presidency was unable to build or maintain proper information relations to its own national experts who are sitting in the respective committee in the Council of Europe.

In short, this special structure will be an informal sub-committee of the CDDH steering committee with 14 members, 7 from the EU and 7 from other Council of Europe member states plus someone from the EU Commission. Some more details are explained in paragraph 11 of this meeting document of the Bureau of the CDDH and the composition of the group is mentioned in the EU Council document.

For the Spanish presidency it seems to be unclear how this special committee will function in practice. I wonder why they only realise this now as the CDDH bureau meeting document is already from 7 April 2010, and the composition and tasks of the group are clearly mentioned in there. Spain should have had enough time to figure everything out - but apparently they are not able to manage this properly.

Now I suppose that for many of you this will have sounded like Chinese, but I assure you that if we knew more stuff of this kind through public documents we would actually understand why the EU and international organisations are often unable to deliver good results:

They have become so complex that a proper co-ordination is almost impossible - and let's not even speak about democratic control!

* Note: the Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg and is not part of the EU system but is the 47 member states strong international organisation built around the European Convention on Human Rights

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

COSI meeting on 25 June 2010

The EU Council Committee on Internal Security (COSI) will meet on Friday with this provisional agenda.

And the meeting documents are almost all secret: 9441/2/10, 8386/10, 11370/10, 10926/10, 10928/10. Only exception: this one.

371 times: Thank you!

Europaportalen.se has published the list of 371 MEPs who declare that all EU citizens are potential pedophiles (background here & here).

Shouldn't we now all thank those MEPs who, like German liberal Alexander Graf Lambsdorff admitted at the ALDE hearing on self-censorship earlier this week, aren't professional enough to actually read a declaration they sign instead of just putting their signature when they are put under pressure by a PR campaign by one of their peers?

If you want to thank them, it's very easy to contact the MEPs: Just follow this link, copy the family name of the MEP into the search field and, on their profile, you'll then find their email.

And here is the list (copy-pasted from Europaportalen.se):

European Peoples' Party (EPP)

Janos Ader, Frankrike
Gabriele Albertini, Italien
Magdi Cristiano Allam, Italien
Laima Liucija Andrikiene, Litauen
Roberta Angelilli, Italien
Antonella Antinoro, Italien
Elena Oana Antonescu, Rumänien
Alfredo Antoniozzi, Italien
Pablo Arias Echeverría, Spanien
Sophie Auconie, Frankrike
Jean-Pierre Audy, Frankrike
Pilar Ayuso, Spanien
Georges Bach, Nederländerna
Raffaele Baldassarre, Italien
Burkhard Balz, Tyskland
Paolo Bartolozzi, Italien
Elena Băsescu, Rumänien
Regina Bastos, Portugal
Edit Bauer, Slovakien
Christophe Béchu, Frankrike
Sergio Berlato, Italien
Sebastian Valentin Bodu, Rumänien
Vito Bonsignore, Italien
Piotr Borys, Polen
Jan Březina, Tjeckien
Simon Busuttil, Malta
Alain Cadec, Frankrike
Wim van de Camp, Nederländerna
Antonio Cancian, Italien
Maria Da Graça Carvalho, Portugal
David Casa, Malta
Carlo Casini, Italien
Pilar del Castillo Vera, Spanien
Giovanni Collino, Italien
Lara Comi, Italien
Michel Dantin, Frankrike
Joseph Daul, Frankrike
Mário David, Portugal
Anne Delvaux, Belgien
Luigi Ciriaco De Mita, Italien
Albert Deß, Tyskland
Tamás Deutsch, Ungern
Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, Spanien
Herbert Dorfmann, Italien
Frank Engel, Luxemburg
Sari Essayah, Finland
Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, Spanien
Diogo Feio, Portugal
José Manuel Fernandes, Portugal
Carlo Fidanza, Italien
Santiago Fisas Ayxela, Spanien
Karl-Heinz Florenz, Tyskland
Carmen Fraga Estévez, Spanien
Gaston Franco, Frankrike
Michael Gahler, Tyskland
Kinga Gál, Ungern
José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil, Spanien
Elisabetta Gardini, Italien
Salvador Garriga Polledo, Spanien
Jean-Paul Gauzès, Frankrike
Marietta Giannakou, Grekland
Luis de Grandes Pascual, Spanien
Mathieu Grosch, Belgien
Françoise Grossetête, Frankrike
Pascale Gruny, Frankrike
Andrzej Grzyb, Polen
Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines, Spanien
Enikő Győri, Ungern
András Gyürk, Ungern
Małgorzata Handzlik, Polen
Ágnes Hankiss, Ungern
Esther Herranz García, Spanien
Jolanta Emilia Hibner, Polen
Monika Hohlmeier, Tyskland
Danuta Maria Hübner, Polen
Salvatore Iacolino, Italien
Ville Itälä, Finland
Carlos José Iturgaiz Angulo, Spanien
Iliana Ivanova, Bulgarien
Peter Jahr, Tyskland
Lívia Járóka, Ungern
Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska, Polen
Elisabeth Jeggle, Tyskland
Filip Kaczmarek, Polen
Jarosław Kalinowski, Polen
Sandra Kalniete, Lettland
Othmar Karas, Österrike
Ioannis Kasoulides, Cypern
Martin Kastler, Tyskland
Tunne Kelam, Estland
Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, Tyskland
Lena Kolarska-Bobińska, Polen
Eija-Riitta Korhola, Finland
Ádám Kósa, Ungern
Georgios Koumoutsakos, Grekland
Andrey Kovatchev, Bulgarien
Jan Kozłowski, Polen
Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, Grekland
Werner Kuhn, Tyskland
Eduard Kukan, Slovakien
Alain Lamassoure, Frankrike
Vytautas Landsbergis, Litauen
Giovanni La Via, Italien
Constance Le Grip, Frankrike
Peter Liese, Tyskland
Krzysztof Lisek, Polen
Veronica Lope Fontagné, Spanien
Antonio López-Istúriz White, Spanien
Petru Constantin Luhan, Rumänien
Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska, Polen
Astrid Lulling, Luxemburg
Monica Luisa Macovei, Rumänien
Bogdan Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, Polen
Marian-Jean Marinescu, Rumänien
Clemente Mastella, Italien
Barbara Matera, Italien
Gabriel Mato Adrover, Spanien
Iosif Matula, Rumänien
Mario Mauro, Italien
Hans-Peter Mayer, Tyskland
Jaime Mayor Oreja, Spanien
Erminia Mazzoni, Italien
Nuno Melo, Portugal
Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, Spanien
Alajos Mészáros, Slovakien
Miroslav Mikolášik, Slovakien
Francisco José Millán Mon, Spanien
Gay Mitchell, Irland
Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Frankrike
Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė, Litauen
Tiziano Motti, Italien
Cristiana Muscardini, Italien
Mariya Nedelcheva, Bulgarien
Rareş-Lucian Niculescu, Rumänien
Angelika Niebler, Tyskland
Lambert van Nistelrooij, Nederländerna
Jan Olbrycht, Polen
Csaba Őry, Ungern
Alfredo Pallone, Italien
Georgios Papastamkos, Grekland
Maria do Céu Patrão Neves, Portugal
Aldo Patriciello, Italien
Alojz Peterle, Slovenien
Markus Pieper, Finland
Bernd Posselt, Tyskland
Hans-Gert Pöttering, Tyskland
Konstantinos Poupakis, Grekland
Jacek Protasiewicz, Polen
Hella Ranner, Österrike
Herbert Reul, Tyskland
Dominique Riquet, Frankrike
Crescenzio Rivellini, Italien
Zuzana Roithová, Tjeckien
Licia Ronzulli, Italien
Paul Rübig, Österrike
José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, Spanien
Potito Salatto, Italien
Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid, Frankrike
Amalia Sartori, Italien
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Polen
Algirdas Saudargas, Litauen
Marco Scurria, Italien
Czesław Adam Siekierski, Polen
Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris, Italien
Csaba Sógor, Rumänien
Renate Sommer, Tyskland
Bogusław Sonik, Polen
Catherine Soullie, Frankrike
Peter Šťastný, Slovakien
Theodor Dumitru Stolojan, Rumänien
Michèle Striffler, Frankrike
László Surján, Ungern
Alf Svensson, Sverige
József Szájer, Ungern
Salvatore Tatarella, Italien
Nuno Teixeira, Portugal
Eleni Theocharous, Cypern
Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein, Polen
Marianne Thyssen, Belgien
László Tőkés, Rumänien
Rafał Trzaskowski, Polen
Traian Ungureanu, Rumänien
Vladimir Urutchev, Bulgarien
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Spanien
Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa, Polen
Manfred Weber, Tyskland
Anja Weisgerber, Tyskland
Iuliu Winkler, Tyskland
Corien Wortmann-Kool, Nederländerna
Anna Záborská, Slovakien
Pablo Zalba Bidegain, Spanien
Paweł Zalewski, Polen
Iva Zanicchi, Italien
Artur Zasada, Polen
Milan Zver, Slovenien
Tadeusz Zwiefka, Polen

Socialists & Democrats (S&D) (60)
Magdalena Alvarez, Spanien
Luis Paulo Alves, Portugal
Francesca Balzani, Italien
Luigi Berlinguer, Italien
Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Litauen
Rita Borsellino, Italien
Victor Boştinaru, Rumänien
Salvatore Caronna, Italien
Alejandro Cercas, Spanien
Sergio Gaetano Cofferati, Italien
Silvia Costa, Italien
Rosario Crocetta, Italien
Francesco De Angelis, Italien
Paolo De Castro, Italien
Robert Dušek, Tjeckien
Edite Estrela, Portugal
Richard Falbr, Tjeckien
Elisa Ferreira, Portugal
Monika Flašíková Beňová, Slovakien
Iratxe García Pérez, Spanien
Eider Gardiazábal Rubial, Spanien
Louis Grech, Malta
Zita Gurmai, Ungern
Jiří Havel, Tjeckien
Edit Herczog, Ungern
Ramón Jáuregui Atondo, Spanien
Maria Eleni Koppa, Grekland
Stéphane Le Foll, Frankrike
Jo Leinen, Tyskland
Bogusław Liberadzki, Polen
Antonio Masip Hidalgo, Spanien
Guido Milana, Italien
Katarína Neveďalová, Slovakien
Justas Vincas Paleckis, Litauen
Pier Antonio Panzeri, Italien
Antigoni Papadopoulou, Cypern
Mario Pirillo, Italien
Gianni Pittella, Italien
Vittorio Prodi, Italien
Teresa Riera Madurell, Spanien
Edward Scicluna, Malta
Olga Sehnalová, Tjeckien
Joanna Senyszyn, Polen
Debora Serracchiani, Italien
Adrian Severin, Rumänien
Peter Simon, Tyskland
Brian Simpson, Storbritannien
Monika Smolková, Slovakien
Georgios Stavrakakis, Grekland
Gianluca Susta, Italien
Hannes Swoboda, Österrike
Csaba Sándor Tabajdi, Ungern
Zoran Thaler, Slovenien
Patrice Tirolien, Frankrike
Patrizia Toia, Italien
Kathleen Van Brempt, Belgien
Derek Vaughan, Storbritannien
Kristian Vigenin, Bulgarien
Henri Weber, Frankrike
Janusz Władysław Zemke, Polen

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) (32)
Liam Aylward, Irland
Catherine Bearder, Storbritannien
Cristian Silviu Buşoi, Rumänien
Chris Davies, Storbritannien
Luigi de Magistris, Italien
Marielle De Sarnez, Frankrike
Pat the Cope Gallagher, Irland
Nathalie Griesbeck, Frankrike
Marian Harkin, Irland
Filiz Hakaeva Hyusmenova, Bulgarien
Stanimir Ilchev, Bulgarien
Vincenzo Iovine, Italien
Metin Kazak, Bulgarien
Wolf Klinz, Tyskland
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, Tyskland
Ramona Nicole Mănescu, Rumänien
Gesine Meissner, Tyskland
Louis Michel, Belgien
Norica Nicolai, Rumänien
Kristiina Ojuland, Estland
Siiri Oviir, Estland
Vladko Todorov Panayotov, Bulgarien
Antonyia Parvanova, Bulgarien
Frédérique Ries, Belgien
Niccolò Rinaldi, Italien
Hannu Takkula, Finland
Michael Theurer, Tyskland
Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, Spanien
Giommaria Uggias, Italien
Viktor Uspaskich, Litauen
Adina-Ioana Vălean, Rumänien
Gianni Vattimo, Italien

Greens (5)
Francois Alfonsi, Frankrike
Malika Benarab-Attou, Frankrike
Michèle Rivasi, Frankrike
Werner Schulz, Tyskland
Michail Tremopoulos, Grekland

European Conservatives and Reformists (30)
Robert Atkins, Storbritannien
Adam Bielan, Polen
Lajos Bokros, Ungern
Tadeusz Cymański, Polen
Ryszard Czarnecki, Polen
Peter van Dalen, Nederländerna
Nirj Deva, Storbritannien
Derk Jan Eppink, Belgien
Hynek Fajmon, Tjeckien
Jacqueline Foster, Storbritannien
Marek Józef Gróbarczyk, Polen
Malcolm Harbour, Storbritannien
Michał Tomasz Kamiński, Polen
Sajjad Karim, Storbritannien
Jacek Olgierd Kurski, Polen
Emma McClarkin, Storbritannien
Marek Henryk Migalski, Polen
Miroslav Ouzký, Tjeckien
Mirosław Piotrowski, Polen
Tomasz Piotr Poręba, Polen
Struan Stevenson, Storbritannien
Ivo Strejček, Tjeckien
Konrad Szymański, Polen
Charles Tannock, Storbritannien
Valdemar Tomaševski, Litauen
Oldřich Vlasák, Tjeckien
Jacek Włosowicz, Polen
Janusz Wojciechowski, Polen
Roberts Zīle, Lettland
Zbigniew Ziobro, Polen

United European Left/Nordic Green Left (15)
Lothar Bisky, Tyskland
Cornelia Ernst, Tyskland
Takis Hadjigeorgiou, Cypern
Jacky Hénin, Frankrike
Jim Higgins, Irland
Elie Hoarau, Frankrike
Jürgen Klute, Tyskland
Jaromír Kohlíček, Tjeckien
Jiří Maštálka, Tjeckien
Marisa Matias, Portugal
Willy Meyer, Spanien
Miloslav Ransdorf, Tjeckien
Vladimír Remek, Tjeckien
Helmut Scholz, Tyskland
Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, Cypern

Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) (14)
Bastiaan Belder, Nederländerna
Mara Bizzotto, Italien
Mario Borghezio, Italien
John Bufton, Storbritannien
Lorenzo Fontana, Italien
Claudio Morganti, Italien
Jaroslav Paška, Slovakien
Fiorello Provera, Italien
Oreste Rossi Italien
Nikolaos Salavrakos, Grekland
Giancarlo Scottà, Italien
Timo Soini, Finland
Francesco Enrico Speroni, Italien
Niki Tzavela, Grekland

Independents (19)
George Becali, Rumänien
Slavi Binev, Bulgarien
Andrew Henry William Brons, Storbritannien
Philip Claeys, Belgien
Diane Dodds, Storbritannien
Bruno Gollnisch, Frankrike
Nick Griffin, Storbritannien
Jean-Marie Le Pen, Frankrike
Marine Le Pen, Frankrike
Krisztina Morvai, Ungern
Mike Nattrass, Storbritannien
Franz Obermayr, Österrike
Nicole Sinclaire, Storbritannien
Francisco Sosa Wagner, Spanien
Emil Stoyanov, Bulgarien
Csanád Szegedi, Ungern
Claudiu Ciprian Tănăsescu, Rumänien
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, Rumänien
Frank Vanhecke, Belgien

And if you don't want to write to them now, remind them every time when you contact them in the future: Thanks for calling me a potential pedophile!

A human Ciolos & an inhuman Reding: Two faces of the EU Commission's social communication

Dacian Ciolos, European Commissioner for the Agriculture, said the following about the value of his presence on Facebook today:
I gather that as from today you are already 500 people following my journey through the European agriculture. I want you to know that I feel your wish for interaction, I enjoy your presence here and it helps me tremendously to remain human, accessible and down-to-earth. Thank you.
I may add to these beautiful words that one should interpret this message as an involuntary but direct attack to Commissioner Reding and her cabinet who are actively working against the European Commission from entering into 21st century communication - disguised as bureaucratic newspeak in the form of a "solid cost-benefit analysis" and a "coherent communication strategy".

These are the inhuman words from the technocratic ages of controlled communication and closed-up public institutions.

As if one could simply measure "cost-benefit" of openness and transparency, reaching out to the public and communicating more humanely or as if the idea of social media wasn't the exact opposite of what were "coherent communication strategies" in the last century where journalists and big media dominated the intermediation between public institutions, citizens and other stakeholders.

But maybe it is a problem when a former journalist and a former legal adviser to a large media corporation are responsible for reforming the communication of the European Commission...

If the Commission was intelligent, it would see that people like Ciolos and so many other human voices from the Commission are not a threat to good communication but the greatest opportunity of opening up a bureaucratic organisation to the public, a public that the organisation is supposed to serve.

Ms Reding, do you hear that? I bet you don't, because it would mean you cared about it!

Picture: European Parliament / CC BY-NC-ND

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Facebook or the question in what kind of world some MEPs live

A member of the European Parliament, Ms Nessa Childers, seems to think Facebook is a danger to the mental health of EU citizens, asking the Commission whether it will legislate on this threat to humanity.

With all due respect to you, Ms Childers, but there are questions that are so stupid that I ask myself why you waste your time and the time of the European Commission with that?

Proclaiming that Facebook is a danger to mental health because it makes you happy is like saying that meeting friends and family is dangerous because it makes you happy.

Digital communication is part of the real life of people in the 21st century and the question put forward by you shows how you have not understood these changes and the reality we citizens are actually living in.

Well done...!

(via @PlaceLux on Twitter)

Monday, 21 June 2010

The European Citizens' Initiative: Council amendments - updated

Some days ago, I've already reported that the Council has come to a general agreement regarding the regulation of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI).

Now I took a look back into the agenda of the Council meeting of 14 June and then into the Council document register and found the actual document (Update: 2nd revised version of 22 June) with the concrete changes that the Council proposed regarding the Commission draft.

Very interesting is, for example, the proposed new introductory clause 11a:
The Commission is encouraged to promote the development of an open source software which will provide the technical and security features necessary for complying with the provisions of this regulation as regards the online collect systems.
What is also significant is the list of possible identification documents/numbers that are listed for each member state from page 24, which, if I recall correctly, was not in the initial draft.

I'd recommend going through the whole document to follow all proposed changes; I suppose that this is particularly interesting for the Members of the European Parliament involved in the drafting process (saw for example that ALDE organises a seminar on the ECI implementation tomorrow).

Sunday, 20 June 2010

EU Intergovernmental Conference on Wednesday

Usually, Intergovernmental Conferences to change the EU Treaties receive quite some attention of the continent.

This time, it is different:

Almost unnoticed, the Spanish EU-Council Presidency has invited to an Intergovernmental Conference on the level of Permanent Representatives (that is, the ambassadors of the EU member states) for next Wednesday, 23 June 2010, to agree on the changing of the EU Treaties to allow 18 new members of the European Parliament to officially take part in the EP's work.

The exact distribution of these 18 can be found in the respective additional protocol laid out in European Council document EUCO 11/10 (page 11).

Since this will be a Treaty change, all EU member countries will need to ratify it according to their national procedures.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

In case you didn't notice...

... but a majority of the members of the European Parliament now officially thinks we are ALL potential pedophiles.

I feel insulted!

PS.: As soon as the list of MEPs who signed this declaration is public, you will ALL hear from us, be assured!

A Euroblogger's report from the EPP Summit

When the Euroblogger enters unknown territory, she or he doesn't know whether he or she is walking into a gold mine or a mine field - and my participation at the EPP Summit ahead of the June European Council meeting was such a move into unknown territory.

But let's report from the beginning, starting on Tuesday evening when I began to write this blog post.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010, 23h11

The EPP has invited me to come to the their pre-European Council summit on Wednesday in Meise near Brussels. I'm not a journalist, I am a blogging political scientist, and so I've no clue what my role can, will and should be. I'm not even sure why exactly they want me to be there and why they trust me - I've just met their spokesperson Kostas Sasmatzoglou once over a beer.

But I have agreed with pleasure to go to the summit because the scientist in me finds it fascinating to watch such an event from as close as possible, the blogger thinks it is worth trying to write about this from a different perspective, and the Bloggingportal.eu editor expects that it is definitely worth having (euro)bloggers at this and other comparable meetings, showing that a coverage beyond classical journalism is possible without being in competition with the journalists (I'm not going to fight for the best pictures or quotes, I promise!).

Yet, while I'm writing these words - it is still Tuesday evening, one day before the meeting - I'm not sure what I should do and write, how I should prepare, what I should take with me.

Should I go in a suit and adapt myself to the people I'm going to look at or should I go in street wear to make clear I'm a blogger, I'm different - I'm a rebel? I don't even know how journalists go to such an event or whether they actually care. I'll probably go in a suit...

So far all I know is that tomorrow at 5.15 pm I will enter a bus organised by the EPP in front of the European Parliament and this bus will bring me and some journalists to a place near Brussels that is called "Bouchout Castle" where the EPP leaders will meet to prepare the European Council meeting on Thursday. And I know that some of the participants of the summit are among the most influential people in EU politics (and beyond).

The main questions I have are:

How close will I get? Should I just stay and watch? Will a story come to me or will I have to find my story? Should I be overly critical to show that although I was invited I still keep my independency and critical thinking as a blogger? Will there actually be something worth criticising or will I rather just see the staging of a political event without being able to actually observe anything of value?

No answers yet, hope to find them tomorrow.

Wednesday, 00h07

Okay, so the EPP meeting is scheduled from 19h30 to 22h00, the Party of European Socialists' (PES) prime ministers and leaders are meeting from 19h00 to 21h00 and, surprisingly, the European Liberals (ELDR) don't have anything on their agenda.

Too tired to search more in detail, will do that tomorrow.

Wednesday, 11h13

Did some research to see how some of the less known EPP leaders look like.

Then I saw on Twitter that Barroso held a speech in front of the European Parliament talking about the upcoming European Council. I was shocked by the bad quality of the text, so I interrupted my search for photos of EPP leaders from Malta and Lithuania to write a blog post about that speech.

If this blog post about the EPP summit would end up too uncritical, I'd at least have something where I could argue that I was at least somewhat critical about one of the main EPP leaders today. Oh, and to underline that I should remind I was one of the supporters of the Anyone but Barroso campaign and I criticised the choice of Jerzy Buzek as European Parliament president. For the protocol.

Wednesday, 13h35

Tried to find some in-depth background on the substance of the upcoming European Council. Not much really, beside the draft annotated agenda. Thankfully, Grahnlaw who also complained about the lack of background notes did some preparatory work for us here, here and here. The press is focussing on the Merkel-Sarkozy meeting yesterday.

Wednesday, 13h49

I realise that while Buzek, Barroso, van Rompuy, Juncker and Merkel are on the provisional list of participants, Sarkozy isn't. (I hear later that day that Sarkozy doesn't come since Wilfried Martens became EPP President. I don't know whether that is true.)

Now continue looking up not-so-prominent EPP leaders, including opposition politicians who won't be at the real summit tomorrow. I realise I wouldn't even recognise Yves Leterme. Luckily his country won't exist for too long.

Talking about Belgium: What would happen if an EU Presidency country would split up during the presidency. Would we have two presidencies then?

Wednesday, 15h21

Finally, the official invitation letter to the European Council and the long-awaited background note have been published by the Council communication services.

Wednesday, 16h12

Did some necessary reading while following Spain-Switzerland in the background. Now thinking about what I should take with me to Meise. Thought about bringing my laptop but it'll probably be more disturbing than helpful, although I'd look more like a blogger.

Decided to just take something to write, a small digital camera, a bottle of water and a book in case I need to wait somewhere without being able to do something else. You never know...

Wednesday, 16h43

Dressed up, ready to leave.

I look conservative in a suit, don't I?! Think I might fit in well then. Decided just to take something to write and the camera. Don't want to carry a bag around.

Wednesday, 17h00

The bus is waiting on the parking opposite to the European Economic and Social Committee. The journalists waiting mostly wear normal clothes, only some appear in a suit. I feel slightly overdressed, but not too much.

Wednesday, 17h30

The bus is leaving and I'm told by one of the EPP people that I'm going to receive a "VIP badge" at the venue. Until now I'd thought I'd be like all the other journalists, but apparently I'm not. I'm glad that I chose to wear the suit and that I didn't take my bag. But I feel slightly uncomfortable, especially towards those journalists travelling with me who probably won't get these privileges.

Wednesday, 17h55

We are still in the bus, passing by the Royal Parc in the north of the city. In my head the thoughts are turning whether I should be glad to get a real view behind the scenes or whether I should feel guilty. I decide to feel glad. Kind of.

Wednesday, 18h10

We arrive at the entrance to the castle and walk towards the venue. It's a perfect day to walk in the parc, sun is shining and it's neither too cold nor too warm.

Wednesday, 18h25

When we arrive at the castle, the journalists have to wait in the line to get checked and receive their badges. After I ask how I would be handled, I'm led inside the castle where I receive a green badge that allows me to walk around freely and to access the whole venue except for the meeting room of the EPP leaders. In that sense I'm now on the same level as the EPP leaders' advisors, which meant I was able to walk along with the politicians on the stairs to their room.

At one point I was walking 50 cm next to Silvio Berlusconi who was then stopped by the security because they didn't know him while I had been walking up and down several times already. How often will that happen in a lifetime: Berlusconi is stopped by the security while the blogger keeps on walking...

Wednesday, from 18h30

During the next hours, I hang around in the advisors' room and in the press area on the ground floor, taking pictures, starring at important people arrive in big cars, listening to prime ministers' advisors speak about politics and football, watching journalists do their work, seeing communication people spin communication, talking with journalists and EPP people, thanking Roberta Alenius for the good communication work of the Swedish presidency (did anyone notice the Spanish Presidency on the web?).

Most fun I had talking with a group of medical staff who were at the event in case of an urgency and who also were allowed to access the advisors' room to profit from the buffet. Since they didn't know, I explained the nature of the event, who was expected and why they were here. Whenever a limousine with someone important arrived I tried to tell who he (no women except for Merkel...) was.

My favourite reaction from them was when I told that this summit was actually a meeting of the European centre-right and one of them said: "What, this is the Right? Then I will eat more food from the buffet." That seemed to be a good punishment for the Right from someone who didn't sound like a fan.

Wednesday, around 20h00

The "family photo" is taken (EPP twitpic & flickr).

Wednesday, after the family photo

Afterwards the leaders disappear into the meeting. Until 21h30, you don't hear anything from the conference room except the very general tweets from the official EPP Twitter account (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

Then, at 21h30 Jyrki Katainen, EPP Vice President and Vice Prime Minister of Finland comes to the press - many journalists had already left after they got individual interviews form the arriving EU leaders and the family photo - and gives the remaining press crowd an intermediate briefing about the state of discussions.

I only understand that he is more optimistic than before the meeting and that there seemed to be some agreement on more transparency (I think it was on transparent stress tests for banks). Some journalists directly inform their home bases. Must have been incredibly substantial, but I cannot notice but that Katainen doesn't sound like a Vice Prime Minister but rather like someone who talks to the press for the first time in his life.

Wednesday, 21:45

I'm told that the bus is already there. For a moment I think whether I should stay, listen to the final press conference and then try to get home on my own. But since I don't expect anything spectacular to happen, I walk back to the bus.

Wednesday, 22:15

We leave. The journalists sitting in front of me in the bus transcribe the briefing from Katainen some 45 minutes ago. Another journalist joins them and gives them some background information he has heard from someone important.

Wednesday, 22:35

We arrive at the parking where we left five hours ago. It is still quite warm and the daylight is almost gone. I walk home.

Conclusion (Thursday, 2:30 am)

It was indeed fascinating to see such an event from as close as I was allowed to watch it, to walk around freely and to see all these different people work around such an event. It is important that people like me don't just take a look at EU politics through the limited windows of the web but that we go and see and smell how these things feel like in reality.

But let's face it: I didn't witness much substance. I didn't see much politics, I wasn't dealing with arguments, the world didn't get better because I was there.

At such an event you can get the obligatory 20 seconds of video material for the evening news, you may be able to have a background chat with an advisor or to grasp a glimpse of power rushing by and disappearing in the maze of endless meetings and discussions, materialised in a photo or two (or three).

As a blogger, I don't think I could have actually contributed much more than by writing this report. Anything else I could do would be classical journalism, just online and just without money. And I'm not a journalist.

In the end, blogging needs to cover what is not yet covered instead of just following the crowd - and "big" events like EPP summit are occasions where the media will come for sure.

Bloggers need to take a closer look behind the scenes, scenes that are not just made for the purpose of looking nice but that are actually hiding things that need to be revealed. Bloggers should go to events where journalists can't go because they wouldn't be able to sell the story or because they don't have the time to participate or because they don't have the competence to understand the substance or the background.

I realised today again that I am not a journalist, and I don't feel like becoming one.

I'm not interested in fighting for background information or a line I can quote. It's not enough for me to have a nice picture shot and then disappear. It also doesn't satisfy me to get to know details that I'm not able to write about afterwards, at least not by quoting the original source.

That doesn't mean that bloggers - citizens writing for other citizens - shouldn't be invited to such events. To the contrary: I am still convinced that looking at (EU) politics with different eyes than the ones of professional journalists can add layers that make democratic processes more interesting, more rich, more colourful.

If you don't have to sell a story, you look at profanities with less interest and you listen to details with more care. If you don't need to reach out to the rest of the world, you can actually chat with the medical staff and discuss with people who are actually concerned by the big and small politics that are produced and reported during these events.

Being at such an event as the EPP summit and having the privilege just to watch closely, to listen and to see the others rush from task to task shows you how much of politics is just a lot of hot air, done with a lot of professionalism and usually with a good bunch of enthusiasm, enthusiasm that is necessary for democratic processes but that is maybe too often stuck in rituals than in real substance.

And so a long day ends, another day where the life of the euroblogger Julien Frisch has been enriched by new impressions, new acquaintances and new ideas - things that I would never have seen or done hadn't I started this blog almost two years ago. Big thanks to the EPP for the invitation!

All pictures were taken by me. You are free to use them under Creative Commons license (CC BY 3.0).

Update: Below you find the video the EPP produced about the event.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Barroso stutter

Sorry readers, but did you see today's speech by Commission President Barroso, the one he held in front of the European Parliament informing ahead of the European Council meeting tomorrow?

I tried to read it, but there is hardly any argumentative structure in the speech.

It is like he got out of bed and was immediately asked to give comments on what he thinks the world should look like. And then he started speaking while dressing up, thinking about van Rompuy, Merkel and the birthday present for his wife.

Just a short extract:
"We have to advance on several fronts at once. So this is the most important lesson from this crisis. In fact, first with the problem of the monetary union the result should not be going back on our monetary union, the result should be going further in economic union.

This is the important point, we need a real effort for an economic union in Europe. And that is why there is this holistic approach combining several instruments. Of course, fiscal consolidation and structural reform, but structural reform for growth and that is why the Europe 2020 strategy places at the heart of it the elements of growth, intelligent, sustainable, inclusive growth.

But this is not the whole program. The program is about growth, but also in terms of structural reforms, in terms of financial reforms and in terms of the new economic governance for Europe. Yesterday I had the occasion during the question hour to discuss this issue of the economic governance.

I will not come now in detail, but I will just say our commitment to use this opportunity to reinforce the economic governance at European level."
The language is mazy and the content is dizzy, this can hardly be called a speech, nothing I would expect from the leader of the European Commission and one of the key figures in EU politics.

There are two options: Either Barroso has a speechwriter whom he needs to fire or he doesn't have a speechwriter and he should find one very quickly...

Monday, 14 June 2010

The European Citizens' Initiative: Council agreement on draft regulation

As informed in a press release (via @lacomeuropeenne), the Council agreed on its version of the European Citizens' Initiative regulation today.

The main points mentioned in the press release are:
  1. The Council wants signatures from at least 1/3 of the member states.
  2. ECI organisers need to send in information about funding and support.
  3. The Commission checks admissibility after 100,000 signatures
Except for the latter point, this seems to be following the Commission proposal; what is not mentioned are the Council's ideas for the online collection system that was still controversial in April.

Draft EU-US SWIFT agreement published

Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht has published the draft EU-US SWIFT agreement formally sent to EU parliamentarians today.

According to Albrecht, the agreement still contains many issues already criticised in the last version rejected by MEPs earlier this year, e.g. the transmission of data packages containing data of innocent EU citizens.

This sounds like the Commission didn't really listen to the European Parliament - Malmström seems to love the conflict.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Changes in the Slovakia, Belgium, and Finland

Yesterday, Slovakians voted against the ruling social democrats and elected a centre-right majority into the Parliament.

Today, Belgium also tries to vote a new government, and, luckily for the politicians, voting is obligatory over here - because what I heard during last week was that politicians are tired of campaigning and voters tired of voting in Belgium after years of crisis. That is democracy how we love it!

And at the end of next week, Finnish prime minister Vahanen will be replaced by the 41 year old Mari Kiviniemi, bringing some young blood into the European Council in the near future.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

EU patents and the monster treaty

This TFEU is a monster. I do commiserate with the Judges who are confronted with the inescapable duty to make sense of all that.
said Axel H Horns in a post on EU patent litigation, in which he summarised some member states' positions in a hearing in Luxemburg last month regarding the unresolved question whether to introduce a separate Patents Court or not.

And I think most will agree that the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the second EU Treaty, is a legal monster, not just in the case of patent litigation...

Friday, 11 June 2010

The European Citizens' Initiative: Critical remarks in Committee of the Regions report - updated

According to a press release, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) - a consultative institution of the EU - has issued a critical opinion regarding the Commission's plans for the European Citizens' Initiative.

In the press release it is said that the CoR finds the present proposal too complicated and demands a reduction of the minimum number of countries from 1/3 to 1/4.

It is a pity that the press release doesn't link the actual report - a clear communications failure - and it was also impossible to find it via the document register of the CoR.

It is a pity because if the 1/4 rule was all the CoR was able to come up, this would have been a clear waste of time. But without the original document it is not possible to see what the Committee rapporteur Sonia Masini has produced.

So we might have to wait until 12 July when she presents her opinion to the European Parliament Committee on Constitutional Affairs (APCO)...

Update: Thanks to @Dana_Council from the Council press service, I have found the draft opinion and the amendments tabled.

Will take a more in-depth look later on.

EuroparlTV's pre-relaunch video

It's just a sneak preview, and you have to work hard to sneak a peek at the planned EuroparlTV redesign* - but it is in there.

Now we'd just like to know when that relaunch will happen...

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Finding official EU information & documents

The EU is a messy place.

But: There is nothing better than the list of official document registers from EU institutions, agencies and other bodies on the Europa.eu website to start with when you are looking for the raw stuff, the originals, the backgrounds, the hidden treasures, the lovely bullshit language produced by administrators, diplomats, politicians, and lawyers to make our life better (and theirs, because they make a living on producing all these documents).

I promise, you will love it!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The death of the Baroness

If blog posts could kill, Bruxelles2's latest article on eurobaroness Ashton would have been her coup de grace.

But I'm afraid she is doomed to live...

22 EU parliamentarians withdraw signatures from controversial declaration - update

Update (17 June): It seems like the declaration has been adopted. Here it is, on the list of adopted declarations. What a disgrace!

According to Europaportalen.se, MEPs have started to withdraw their signatures from a controversial EP declaration.

The declaration that would become an official European Parliament position if at least 369 signatures from MEPs were collected demands that search engine searches should be part of the data retention directive, all this under the pretext of the fight against pedophilia.

This declaration, if I understand correctly, would effectively mean (if translated into EU law) that every search that we do on the net would have to be stored for two years and made accessible to the security authorities if requested.

After Europaportalen.se Journalist Christian Wohlert reported about the issue last week, it became news in the UK and in Sweden and it also has been noted with concern in Germany and in France.

At least, the news coverage was successful: According to Wohlert, 22 MEPs have withdrawn their signatures so far.

Yet, there are still 309 MEPs left who think that every EU citizen is a potential pedophile and that each of our searches needed to be stored and made available if the police and other security forced wanted to know more about us - the EP at its best!

Picture: © stephenjohnbryde / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): Council refuses access to documents

According to a comment on one of my previous articles, the Council has refused to give access to the draft negotiation directive regarding the EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The European Financial Stability Facility is there

EU Law (Wordpress) writes about the fact that the legal framework for the Euroepean Financial Stability Facility - the mechanism to handle the big bailout money - is in place now and describes its details. Worth reading!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Thanks to New Europe...

... for publishing, almost every week, European blog posts in your newspaper!*

* Just open one of the New Europe issues that are available as PDF. Usually it is on page 22.

Monday, 7 June 2010

European sub-culture & gender clichés

Just amazing. A European film about sub-culture that might also destroy some gender clichés. Girl Power!

Can't wait for 2011!

Relations between the EU Commission and national parliaments in 2009

The Commission has issued a report on its relations with the national parliaments and the activities of these parliaments vis-à-vis the Commission.

Instead of starting to read the full text, I recommend starting with the Annex on pages 12-14, because there you have a nice overview over how active member states' parliaments were in 2009.

Very interesting to note is that Portugal was by far the most active country sending opinions to the European Commission (the Barroso bonus?).

And it is also worth noting that in countries where there is a second or higher chamber, this chamber seems more likely to issue opinions than the main parliament (maybe because the main parliament's majority has usually control via the government).

However, it will be very important to compare these figures with the figures for 2010, because this will be an indication whether the Lisbon Treaty rights for the national parliaments actually made them more involved with EU legislation.

One year ago...

... at this time I was sitting in a polling station in Germany to support the administration of the European Parliament elections 2009.

At that time, my 120 posts series on the pre-EU-election process had also come to an end. Without that series and the interest it created for me to write about European communication and European day-to-day politics, this blog might not have evolved, I might have given up writing soon after I started.

And so I would not have discussed issues like "Footsoldiers & Generals in European Communication", I might not have written "The Week in Bloggingportal: Thinking about the future" and blog posts like "Kücükdeveci - A European case" would not have been followed up by other European blogs today, four months after I wrote them.

I must admit that after the EU election process I was "a little" disappointed, but the process has helped me to develop a voice and the disappointment has become determination to move things forward more actively. I'm not yet sure whether we will succeed, but since it cannot get worse than it was one year ago, it's still worth trying.

But one year ago, I was sitting in a rather quiet polling station in Germany hoping that more people would show up in the afternoon...

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Thank you, Slovenia!

I know, the vote was tight (see Reuters), but big thanks to all Slovenians for the vote in favour of European unity instead of insisting to continue a border conflict that is contrary to the idea of a European continent where the old borders aren't dividing lines anymore!

European Parliament staff statistics by nationality and grade

Earlier this year, the Spanish EU Council Presidency has written a letter to the Secretary General of the European Parliament, Klaus Welle, asking for detailed staff statistics of the European Parliament Secretariat in the same way as the EP wants these statistics from the Council.

One month later, Klaus Welle now has presented his answer: 7652 people work for the European Parliament secretariat (there are about 3400 people working for the Council Secretariat, see here).

And here is the breakdown of total staff figures by EU country (note that also other nationalities work in the EP!) ignoring the distribution by grade (see link above for the details):

Austrian - 98
Belgian - 955
British - 382
Bulgarian - 156
Cypriot - 28
Czech - 165
Danish - 185
Dutch - 230
Estonian - 105
Finnish - 219
French - 852
German - 656
Greek - 297
Hungarian - 210
Irish - 126
Italian - 703
Latvian - 114
Lithuanian - 125
Luxembourgish - 144
Maltese - 73
Polish - 320
Portuguese - 312
Romanian - 218
Slovak - 145
Slovenian - 117
Spanish - 503
Swedish - 184

EU, terror & restricted briefings

"We should also provide more detailed information to the European Parliament, for example through restricted briefings."

"At the moment we give the US data and get assessed intelligence in return."

"Improving the effectiveness of the EUPOL Mission in Afghanistan is a particular current priority where such an integrated approach could not only improve the operation of the Mission itself, but also the beneficial impact on the EU's own security. This positive impact on internal security will help justify devoting more resources from Interior Ministries."
"EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy - Discussion paper" by Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator [my highlights]

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Footsoldiers & Generals in European Communication

Martin Westlake, the Secretary General of the European Economic and Social Committee, has written a blog post titled "Young communicators and the shape of future communication".

We have met earlier this week in his office to talk about this topic, and so it is great to see that he continues the discussion online and connects it to projects like "The Hub" here in Brussels.

Martin is, to my knowledge, the only high-ranking EU official who writes a true personal blog, one that is set up not on an EU platform and one that connects his reflections on work-related issues with stories of cultural events he has participated in or more personal issues that he comes across in his life outside the (usually black) box of EU bureaucracy.

Here is what Martin finds in his article on young communicators (my highlights):
"I have often written about the decline in the paradigm of mass membership party politics in our democracies but increasingly I realise that those democratic forces are still ‘out there’ – they just express themselves in different ways, ways made possible in large part by rapidly evolving net-based applications.

What I find fascinating about these developments is that they are ‘messy’ – by which I mean that they are organic and their evolution is unpredictable and uncontrollable (think of ‘viral’ videos).

They are thus the antithesis of what public administrations like.
And this brings him to one question:
"Young, committed Europeans like Julien and Jon and Polly are the footsoldiers of the European ideal but, the thought occurs to me; in such a world, is there any place or role for generals?"
I think there is a role for generals. There is a role for generals because, without proper co-ordination, our societies, whether manifested offline or online, will not be able to keep up social achievements and social structures that are worth protecting, worth preserving.

We need generals who can channel good ideas. We need experts who are good in what they do and who can guide others to make the right choices in order sustain what is existing, to re-construct what has been destroyed by accidents or to build new what can change the world for the better.

We need trusted people and institutions who can take responsibility for certain tasks, e.g. European institutions - not necessarily governmental - to keep up or to foster European conversations on topics that would otherwise be ignored or that would be held in separate spheres although they concern all of us.

The major change might be to ask how we chose these persons, how we build these institutions, what democratic or popular, organised or viral mechanisms we can accept to let certain persons or groups of persons to be our generals, generals for a day, for a month or for 10 years depending on the task they fulfil in our society's communication(s).

The question is rather: Do we need all the majors, the captains, the lieutenants and all the other middlemen and middlewomen who often don't add value to our society?

Do we need command chains that take days for what direct communication can do in an hour? Do we need committees full of highly-paid experts discussing solutions for a problem for one year who then just come up with the conclusion that there is a problem but that one cannot agree on the means to solve it?

Do we need people who co-ordinate the co-ordination of co-ordinated efforts to solve a small problem where one direct question to the right person - which is made possible by modern communication - could bring the solution without delay and with much less costs for society?

The problem of European communication as organised by the EU institutions today is that these chains of commands don't work at the speed of 21st century communication.

Our European "generals" are eaten up by co-ordinating the co-ordination of the co-ordination and the chains of command have evolved into circles of command in which no one needs to feel responsible for failure, where the circle of communication has become the true nature of daily activity, not the question how to identify problems and to solve them.

Those who are experts in solving problems are forced to spend their life talking to hierarchies about the fact that the problem exists instead of actually being allowed to spend the same time in building solutions. They could be our generals, but they are made wheels of a machinery that is best in building more wheels, but not in moving the machine forward.

"Young communicators" as Martin has called us cannot stand this kind of machinery and we use modern communication to circumvent the hierarchies.

We are not necessarily the ones who would be good generals. We are even ready to let ourselves guide by generals who have our trust as long as we have the feeling that we are trusted by our generals, too.

But as long as we have the feeling that we need to talk to a lieutenant who will then talk to his captain who in a month might address a major who later on will maybe write a letter to the general to ask whether the lieutenant should be allowed to talk more in detail with us, we prefer spending our precious footsoldier's lifetime with different activities than waiting for the general to give an order that would probably just make us walk in circles.

Modern communication has allowed us to directly find like-minded people and to live an important share of our lives without generals and their hierarchies. We try to solve little problems on our own or through small, self-coordinated efforts, and we have more fun spending our time like this.

But there will be the day when we will need the generals again to co-ordinate the solution of the big problems of our societies - and either the present generals and their institutions have changed until then and are ready to actually support us, or we will replace them, including their bureaucracies.

And since the EU's institutional system uniting European and national bureaucracies is the archetype of a "modern", command-cycle bureaucracy that slows us down more than it makes us move forward, it may be the one we will start with if it doesn't change very soon...

Picture: © gilderic / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0